North Korea is in the final stages of setting up the conditions for a return to the six-party talks, likely around the 25th of July.
Now, I based that date on several factors, including Chinese president Hu Jintao’s visit (which couldn’t be until sometime after July 8, given the Kim Il Sung death day memorial) and the simple fact that Pyongyang was trying originally for the crisis to be solved in 2003 in time for the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice Agreement (July 27) – so talks should begin on or a little before that date this time around, as Pyongyang still likes to play up symbolism and history.
China is in the midst of several visits to North Korea before Hu’s visit to shore up a more unified approach to the six-party talks, and other diplomatic visits and discussions are in full swing. The Hu visit will be most interesting. Pyongyang chose to give China a little knock by announcing the return to the talks before Hu’s visit. While Beijing can still claim credit for convincing Pyongyang to return to the table – given other envoys like Tang Jiaxuan – it makes Hu’s visit now look like he is returning a favor to the North, not coming to give fatherly advice and direction to the wayward regime.